Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Call me Bitter?

"She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." Ruth 1:20

Ruth has just lost her husband and two sons. (See Ruth 1:1-22 for the context of this story). Surely, if anyone has reason to be a little bitter, it would be Ruth. Yet we are commanded to keep a root of bitterness from springing up, causing trouble, and defiling many (Hebrews 12:15, etc.). Note that it defiles many. It is not merely a 'Pity Party for one please!,' but others in our lives are inevitably affected by our sin.

Naomi pleads with the residents of Bethlehem to call her Mara, meaning 'bitter.' Can't you just hear it? 'Just call me Ms. Bitter!' Sounds a little rough doesn't it? And somewhere, covered in the web of insecurities and unmet expectations over our hearts, I believe we may have whispered the same plea for a name-change. Oh sure, we may not have sent all of our friends an email asking for them to please change their address books to match our new name, but the cry of self-pity could be there nonetheless.

Naomi's heart touches a tender area of my own. I've not lost much in comparison to countless others, but I know what it's like to have joined in the suffering. My beloved Dad passed away when I was 20, our material possessions were depleted, and even now, someone I love dearly is facing extended jail charges. And my heart aches. It aches for the loss, while it simultaneously swells with anticipation because I know that I have the opportunity to know my Lord more.

Naomi continues, saying, "I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?" (Sigh ... ). Our finite minds distort our vision. Our limited concepts of the Holy One paralyze us.

Have we not all in some manner, at some point, been a Naomi? We stay fixated on our specific 'loss' so long that we are blind to the 'gain' offered in Christ. We mope, pout, and keep our arms crossed at the foot of the cross in outright anger at the One who has seemingly "brought us back empty" and "afflicted."

hear me. There is a season, even a long one sometimes, where you are meant to count your losses. You cannot wholly discover your 'gain' until you face, embrace, and have a girlie mourning fit and hiatus over what is 'not' anymore. There is nothing healthier than crying out to your Father at times.

But, when you refuse to go through the process of counting your loss, He cannot direct your wounded heart to the Truth of Himself. If all we gained in our loss was more of Christ, I promise you sister, He would be enough (Ps. 63:5)

Who do you say that you are? Maybe a more eye opening question is the following: who do you desire others to acknowledge you to be out of self-pity, self-protection, self-importance, self-loathing and more? Can I be brutally honest with some of the name games I think we women play?
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me afflicted one. (Girls, you need to know that if you sit in the sympathy pit with someone past the God-appointed time, you could be enabling them to stay there and hindering them from 'taking up their mat to walk' again!)
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me not skinny. (Because when we finally get that boyfriend, husband, or friend to agree to our thoughts that we aren't as 'thin' as we may desire to be, we can then lash out in anger over our physical insecurities. All the while the LORD has been begging you to open your eyes to the most beautiful creation He has ever made - you. Psalm 139).
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me unworthy or unable. (Once we've believed the lies that we aren't good enough, we accept the accusations of the enemy. Thus, the next time we fall into that sin again, we hear the enemy say 'I told you so,' and we nod shamefully, in agreement. Then, we permit ourselves to live in the vicious cycle of defeating strongholds, excusing ourselves from repentance or the seeking of victory, because remember, we are unworthy to even try to be different, or considered able to be anything but what we are in our flesh.)
  • Do not call me accepted, call me rejected. (He has made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6).
  • Do not call me called of God, call me useless. (But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9).
What is it sisters that keeps us going around to others with our empty cups, seeking their approval or rejection to confirm what we already may think about ourselves? Quite possibly, it may be fear, pride, or false humility. Because if we are not the afflicted, non-skinny, unworthy, rejected, or useless ones that we may feel to be, we have to accept the Truth that we are disciplined out of His love, beautifully created, worthy, accepted, and chosen children of the Most High God. Can you receive that? Because you must. Do you have the courage to actively walk in the person He has already named you?

God shouts His names of love for you throughout the entirety of the Old Testament and the New. He displays it from the beginning of creation with a 'very good' all the way to His merciful redemption on the cross. You are who you are because of Him. To deny who you are, is to deny who He is. Next time you have a Naomi occasion, take your validly wounded heart to your Great Physician. And ask Him who you are. I suspect if you ask Him to please not call you 'such and such,' He will stoop down, impress His nail-scarred hand upon your bleeding heart, and gently remind you of your identity - His beloved, and the apple of His eye.

Count your losses. Weep. Cry. Give heed to the brokenness. But do not let your circumstances define who you are. Your El Shaddai calls you by a name rooted in His unconditional love for you. You bear the Name above every name - that of Christ - and nothing could be more wonderful...

Do not call me bitter, He calls me blessed.
Do not call me unclean, He calls me holy.
Do not call me not good enough, He calls me more than able.
Do not call me victim, He calls me victorious.
And do not call me unlovely, He calls me beautiful.

I love you girls. And I know the God of the Universe loves you with an even more tenacious love of perfection. He desires you to believe Him about who you are.

PS - Danny, Carole's sweet dog, refused to leave me alone during my Bible study time. He kept plopping on top of it while I was trying to read. Apparently, He has a heart for the Word. I mean really; He was fighting to get Himself on top of those pages. I finally got up and decided to capture the moment!


jennyhope said...

my daughter gets on top of my bible. it seriously drives me nuts! Anyway, we need to figure out where we can meet on Fri. I cant wait. Also, I am going to read your post and comment back. It is 1:02 am here and I can not go to bed I am so angry and I need a soft forgiving heart before I go to sleep so I wont give the enemy a foothold. I just read Ruth again recently and thought of how bitterness sets in and we can be walking Maras if we aren't careful. I got on my face earlier and asked God to change me and tender my heart. I think the warfare is coming due to the conference as well. AAHHH!!

jennyhope said...

so good and just what i needed!!

Teri said...

Shelly, thank you. This is a beautifully written post and an awesome reminder of who we are in Christ. He is so merciful and kind to us!

mandy said...

i ain't gonna lie to you (as a bff, i'm morally obligated not to): this one hurt.
very good... but very challenging.
i've gotta walk a tightrope right now to feel what i'm feeling, but not have one HECK of a pity party in the process.
much needed word.
if you need to get me out of a pity party, just call me "Mara" instead of Mandy & I'll try to snap out of it.
hug carole for me!

The Cooke Family said...

What a powerful post Shelly! i got emotional reading it, because i felt the power of the Spirit through what you wrote.

I know I have mentioned this before, but due to a very busy life (Homeschooling mom of 3 boys, and raising support to go into full time ministry), I do not have time to be on the computer and get caught up in blogville- although I know it is easy to do. I read my friend- the other "Toknowhim" blog on a regular basis but that's all I have time for - unless she refers me to something she knows I'll love. : ) BUT precious Shelly, I will have you know, that as the Lord challenges me to prioritize my time, I DO regularly check your blog because it blesses me when I do. It convicts me when I do. YOU sweet one, have a very special gift - it is rare. It shouldn't be, but it is! I know it is not you, it is is HIM. What a blessing to see such a young girl surrender herself to the one she trusts her very life with. It is SO refreshing. Your faith is strong - your love for our Lord is deep! I will be praying fo r your future. I KNOW God has big plans for you, and I know He will pave a clear path for you. You may not always see the path so clearly, but it is already paved. As you continue to seek Him, I am confident He will open your eyes to see it.

Blessings to you sweet sister!

Lisa said...

My Oh My.....what a great post to get up to. I am going to focus today on all that the enemy meant for harm, christ will turn around for the good. I am not going to have a pity party, I am going to praise my way out. Thank you lord in advance for preparing th way.

Love ya girl,

Jen the Newlywed said...

Wonderful post Shelly! It reminded of the lyrics to a Sara Groves' song:

"I can't remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain;
I can't remember one single regret
In serving God only, and trusting His hand"

Have a great day!

amy said...

came across your blog from the lpm blog. you are a blessing and such a sweet siesta! the Lord has spoken to me today through your previous posts.
blessings to you!

Joni said...

Boy, can I ever identify with Naomi. I was stripped of my job, my security, my strength, my reasoning.... I had a major pity party for 2 miserable years. Then I was so short of resources there was nothing left for me to do but cry out to God for help. If God had left one shred of pride in me, I could've been bitter like Naomi of all that He allowed to happen to me. But He had a plan all along, and He turned it all out to my good because I did rely on Him. Never give in to the enemy. Never give up your hope in Christ.

Lisa said...

First of all Sister - that picture is tooooooo precious! That one deserves a gold frame!!
Second, what a wonderful post. Although I cringe to admit this, but I have called myself all those things and more. But, PRAISE MY HOLY FATHER - He had delivered me!
I thank Him everyday for you and all the wisdom He has given you. You are bound for great things for His kingdom!
Can I get an Amen!!?

jennyhope said...

girl can you believe that I did not go to bed until 5? LOL!
I am going to email you my digits! I cant wait to see you in person! this is a strange relationship all of us have. I feel like Paul getting ot meet people on the missionary journeys!! HA HA!

Lindsee said...

The Lord keeps reminding me of this message. Coincidence?! I believe not. Even the book I am reading took me right through this!

Thank you for your sweet reminder. It's never ceases to bless me!

I am believing God for who HE says I am. :)

Wish I was meeting you in person, too, this weekend. I know it will come sometime soon, though! ;)

Y'all will all have a blast and I can't wait to hear about it!

The Preacher's Wife said...

loved this shelly, you are so gifted!


Darla said...

Hey Princess! What an awesome post..i know I struggle with this from time to time..But deep in my heart I know HE calls us Christian..meaning Christ like. God is awesome like that...HE sees the finished product. Lots of growing and learning for all of us, until we get home. Princess to princess

Little Steps Of Faith said...

Okay, Okay, I was going to stay far away from the blog, and mine I did; I just had to stop by one.

I have to tell you that I think that post was probably the most wonderful one you have ever written, that I have seen anyway:)

For this girl personally, that post really spoke. It actually instead of being convicting, I felt that I am actually on the right path. Never thought I would actually get there..

So thank you for that:) Brings a smile to my face:)


Christina said...

You've been over to my blog and know where I'm at right now (thanks for you commenting and visiting...it means so much)....I SO needed this post. THANK YOU! I think I'm almost ready to let go of my pity party....almost. :-)

connorcolesmom said...

That was so well written!!
I find myself realting to the unworthy and not skinny enough names! Thank you for this post!
I was considering a last minute decision to join all of you on Friday but we had something really big happen at church and I am going to have to go to church for a prayer meeting on Friday.
Please pray for God's hand in all of the stuff at my church.
Love ya,

Sharon said...

Standing against all Maras that might just want to use my shoes.
May God protect you eyes, ears and heart.

Belle-ah said...

I stumbled upon your blog through Lyndy's at Oh-Fiddle-dee-dee...and I know there are no coincidences in God's great creation. I am struggling through a dry season and trying to embrace what God is trying to do with me. Thanks for a wonderful post!

Heather said...

What a beautiful post! Have fun at the conference ... my mom will be there. I would have been had it not been for a wedding to attend!

Linda said...

This is just filled with insight and wisdom Shelly. There have been many times in my life when I have let some not so nice names define me. We have so many choices to make as we take this journey. I am thankful it is a process, and that in spite of my wrong attitudes God is always working in my life to draw me closer to Himself.

Kelly S. said...

That was really beautiful, thank you. I am flooded with memories now of the time in my life when my daddy died. It still hurts to type those two words. Sometimes I forget the depths of bitterness I was delivered from. Thank you for reminding me not only of His faithfulness, but also of one of the many wonderful ways God has loved and restored me.
What god is great like our God?
Thou art the God who works miracles, who has manifested thy might among the peoples. PS 77:14

Hang in there sister!

holy chaos said...

".)Do not call me accepted, call me rejected. (...He has made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6)."

this is a balm on a heart that know this hurt.

Tee said...

Ruth is an awesome Book! It's a type and shadow of what Jesus has done for us. How awesome is that?!!!!

Linda said...

I don't even know how to comment. I feel like I am seated beside the throne when I read your posts and the Father is gently using you to open my eyes and fill my heart with his word in a way I never read it before. Thanks so much for your obedience to Him to share him with the world.

Ang baylis said...

I just loved this post, Shelly!
Are you sure you are not Beth Moore's sister??? I SO look forward to what comes out of that sweet mouth (...computer).
This was your best yet!

Much love from Angie
(...Call me "Loved" by my best friend, Jesus...
formerly called..."divorced, victim for WAY too long, self-loathing etc...)!!!

Toknowhim said...

I saw your comment about you downloading those two Mandisa's songs I liked... You may also want to download (is that what you call it?)
"True Beauty" (great message and upbeat),and "Love Somebody" with toby Mac, and of course "Shackles" (it is a different version)

Blessings to you and I have added you on my "Fav Links" now.

Janelle & Ella said...

Good word Girl! Thank you!

And the picture of the dog is HILARIOUS!
btw...I totally don't think you a stalker and would love for you to hang out with Ella! :-)

connorcolesmom said...

How was the conference?!! I have been praying for all of you!!
Did you meet Jenny?
I can't wait to hear about it!!
Love ya,

Sandy McTier said...

Wow! It's incredible how much time we waste dogging ourselves,digging ourselves into the pits of pity when all along we have a GOD that is there with all the answers and arms wide open!
Beautiful post, incredibly written, and adorable picture of the dog.

Have a blessed day.

Donna said...

I am anxiously awaiting a teaching blog on what and how Raboni ministered to you Friday through Beth....was not able to go but can surely receive from God through my sisters who were able to attend.

Fred McKinnon said...

Shelly -

Good stuff ... kinda reminds me of what I'm reading in a John Maxwell book, "Failing Forward" ... one of the many things he addreses is moving forward - counting your losses, admitting if you've failed, knowing it's part of life, own it and learn from it, and move forward.

Thanks for your insights!
Fred McKinnon, Worship Leader/Blog

Checkout TheWorshipCommunity.Com - Discussing Everything Worship

Sharon said...

Please stop by and check out my Sunday post.

jennyhope said...

hey girl I am so glad that i got to meet you in person. I am so blessed by you and your blog! :)